I’m going to start off this post with something very unprofessional. I know unprofessional is kind of my stock-in-trade, but if you know me, you know I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for almost 40 years, so give me the slack you know I’m going to need. If you don’t know, I need a lot of slack. All the slack, in fact.
I’m a Doctor Who nut, I converted my perfectly sane wife into a Doctor Who nut, and together we raised two more Doctor Who nuts who have gone on to make converts of the people in their lives. When the show is on or we find out some news about it, “squee” is the dominant word in our house, in our texts, and in our social media posts.
Many of our friends roll their eyes and scroll on. We don’t care.
So here goes:
I went to San Diego Comic-Con where I met and spoke with the Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi. He even took a picture with me, both of us us pointing and doing the eyebrow thing! After raising two kids and having ample opportunity to furrow my brow at them, I knew I had the eyebrow thing down, but in the picture my eyebrows look more disappointed than intense. It’s as if my eyebrows started a war with Capaldi’s eyebrows and lost. I really don’t care, because I got a moment arm-in-arm with the damned Doctor. I could’ve been picking my nose when they took the shot and I’d still frame that sucker.
Anyway, I think I got the pointing down pretty well. It’s not like I’ve stood in front of a mirror several dozen times practicing the point or anything … as far as you know. I will, however, admit to going back to the hotel and practicing, and vastly improving, the intense eyebrow thing. Hey, you never know when a chance like that might pop up again. An old Whovian needs to be prepared for any eventuality; the Doctor would expect nothing less.
Getting on to business:
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con we were fortunate to have been included in a round table interview with Steven Moffat and the principal cast of Doctor Who. This is the interview session with the Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi. We were part of a small and intimate group of fellow reporters who took turns asking questions. Together we quizzed the Time Lord about the show and what we might expect in the upcoming season 9.
Capaldi has got a way about him that immediately puts you at ease. Even though your inner cloister bell is clanging full-force over the fact that THE DOCTOR is sitting just three feet away from you, you’re surprisingly comfortable with it because the man is just so friendly. He plays the Doctor, but he’s a fan of the show and he appreciates and understands real fans – like the people sitting across the table from him. It made the whole interview session a true joy to be a part of.
Please enjoy the results of that session.
How are you enjoying your first Comic-Con?
It’s great. People keep saying to me, “Are you nervous?” which just makes me more nervous because I’ve never been in a room with 7,000 people, so I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But last night I said, “This is an amazing experience. I want to go out into the street and just see what it’s like and have some fun,” so we went out. It was great seeing the street fill up with Imperial Stormtroopers and Obi-Wan Kenobes and Spider-Men and all that stuff. And obviously I got to meet a load of fans.
But it was just lovely. It’s such a kind of carnival sort of atmosphere and it’s a nice experience. And, you know, one of the great things about being in Doctor Who, or I guess being in any of these kind of shows, is you’re in a very special position, you know. I’m in a very sort of privileged position and I often think “embrace this experience” because it will also be over at some point.
You seem to have embraced the fact that you’re a hero to kids now, which is sort of a shift from some of your previous projects. How surreal is it that kids are now looking to you for advice from the Doctor?
It’s, um … it’s weird. <laughs> But then in real life, I’m a father, so I understand what kids have to go through. It’s a responsibility if you play a part that is meaningful to kids and young people. I don’t mean that I can offer them any particular advice or any particular help, but one of the amazing things is to be sitting here. When kids see me and they shout “Doctor Who” from the other side of the street and they come running over to see me, you get all the affection they have for the character and it’s a great experience.
You have to be mindful of the fact that you don’t want to upset them, but then all of the previous Doctors have set great examples. Tom Baker, who was a great Doctor, would never smoke where kids could see him, and that was back in the seventies.
As an actor in a role that has so much history, how do you approach the role? Do you go back and watch previous Doctors or do you approach it cold?
Well, I’m a huge fan. I’ve watched the show since I was like 6 years old, so there was no choice there. I already knew them all, so it wasn’t cold to me. I’ve been a huge fan of the show, watched all the episodes, know all the Doctors … so I sort of felt it was kind of in my DNA because I’d grown up with it. So there were so many things that I didn’t have to think about.
Who was your favorite Doctor?
I loved them all, but clearly the first four were the ones that literally covered me growing up. I’d gone from being a toddler to being a teenager. Most people, when they reach 17 or 18, they go off and discover sex and drugs and rock and roll and sort of leave Doctor Who behind a little bit, which was sort of what happened with me. So I lost it for a while.
And then when the show came back I was very excited. I watched it just as a viewer; as a fan. I was thrilled with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith. I think I showed up in an episode as another character. I couldn’t come to Doctor Who cold, because it’s such a part of me.
Previously, your Doctor seemed a bit reluctant to help out the humans. In this season, is he a little bit more accepting of his role as sort of Earth’s savior?
I think he is, but I think he has a different perspective from other people. I think he’s always on the side of good, but he doesn’t have time to be nice about it. He knows that in order to save the universe he has to run over there and fix that bit, and I can’t chat just now because I’ve got to go and fix that.
I think that when you regenerate you probably have to get to know yourself and I think that the Doctor has a lot of moral complications. So I think he has come to know himself better and recognized, even if you’re two and a half thousand years old, that life is short. He’s in a fabulous position and he has access to the whole of time and space. So I think this season sees him much more running towards adventure and challenging himself and being almost reckless.
He knows that at some point he’ll be taken to a very dark place. At some point he’ll have to fight the good fight in a way that nobody else has had to do it and it will cost him dearly.
What was it like working with Maisie Williams?
I’m a big, big Game of Thrones fan, so I was excited when Maisie came. Maisie had her 18th birthday with us on the show, she’s been in Game of Thrones since she was 12, so she’s very skilled, technically, but she’s not spoiled at all. I loved having her around, she was so much fun. And she spoke a completely different language – she spoke 18-year-old language. She taught me all these different phrases and things.
Being a fan of the show for so long, how has the show’s recent growth in global popularity impacted you?
I think it’s something you have to come to understand. In some ways, it’s not the show I grew up with, which was a very domestic, very British success that was always teetering on the edge. Doctor Who was a show that was always maybe going to get canceled, but it hung on in there because lots of us all loved it. Then we all grew up and we all became actors and producers and we brought it back.
So to find it becoming this international success is quite bewildering and because of the nature of the program, it does things that the old program never did. It’s more romantic; it’s more Freudian, it’s better looking, the sets don’t wobble, and the rubber monsters don’t look so rubbery. But yes, it’s the same show. And that’s what I love about it, because a lot of people that work on it love the show and have loved it from the beginning, but the scale of it can be a little intimidating.
You mentioned the Doctor knows he’ll have to go to a dark place. With Michelle coming back, will Missy tempt him to that dark place and will he perhaps see a little bit of logic in her darkness?
I think he sees that already; I think he understands. I’ve got to explain, I’m in the middle of doing episode 11 and we’re just setting up our whole finale, so I know there are reveals coming that perhaps explain some of it.
Other than Clara, who’s your favorite contemporary companion?
They’re all lovely … but I guess I have a soft spot for Karen Gillan because she and I were in the same episode. We were both in an episode of Doctor Who playing different roles. She played a priestess in Pompeii and I played a marble dealer.
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Doctor Who season 9 premieres Saturday, September 19!
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